Sound by D3 Audio. Video by Walking Dream
Azari & III (DJ Set)
Deep inside the recesses of a sprawling, 19th century warehouse complex in Toronto’s gritty-but-rapidly-gentrifying Parkdale neighbourhood, an urgently driving bass line echoes through a maze of hallways. If you know which unmarked door to open and which dark staircase to climb, you’ll hear the relentless pounding getting louder and the eerie melodies coming clearer into focus. Inside their clandestine studio you’ll find Azari & III buried in a throbbing groove, seemingly oblivious to a visitor. (Alphonse) Alixander (Lanza) III wheels his chair back and forth between the mixing console to the racks of outboard gear behind him, minutely and obsessively tweaking the Neve EQ of a beat coming from an old 12bit drum sampler, one he bought earlier that day. Behind him, Dinamo Azari is playing a menacing yet oddly beautiful melody on one of the many synths scattered around the cluttered dimly lit room, completely lost in the moment. Slouched on a couch, thin Nubian front man Starving Yet Full hums the beginnings of a hook quietly to himself in a soft falsetto. Feeling more sure of his idea, he lets loose with a soulful riff on a few words that immediately shifts the mood of the emerging skeleton track. With a paranoid screech the piano booth door opens and Fritz Helder dances his way back into the room, notebook in hand, immediately launching into an impromptu call-and-response routine with SYF. Unfortunately, this kind of session is all too rare for them these days, as the huge buzz that’s been generated by their early singles Hungry For The Power and Reckless (With Your Love) has kept them in constant demand in clubs and festivals worldwide. Transcending genres and scenes, their high profile fans range from Annie Mac to Grizzly Bear, Boys Noize to Broken Social Scene. They’ve collaborated with UK blowups Friendly Fires, as well as done wisely chosen remix work for Robyn, Cut Copy, Booka Shade, Creep (Romy of the XX) and LA’s noise darlings Health. There are actually too many remixes to mention, covering ground from wistful, sad ambient-scapes to punkish, chugging techno frenzies. This is not an act that seems to be locked into any restrictive scene, but rather bridge builders between the dance and rock worlds, under and overground sensibilities. Though to some outside of Kanada this might seem like an overnight success, Azari & III as individuals have paid their dues slogging it out under various aliases in the clubs and studios since the mid-nineties. Between the four of them they’ve experimented with everything from house to garage rock, shoegazer to mutant disco. But something new clicked in 2008 when they first joined forces in that secret musical lair. A sound came out that was somehow timeless without being retro. Given the equipment and methods, these songs could have been recorded in the late 80s, but they sound completely modern and at home on the current playlist or dancefloor. When the two vocalists enter the mix, they finesse a formula that’s seen them charting all over the world - currently #1 on German Club Charts (ed.01/06/11) - and being written about furiously in both the mainstream and underground music press. While discussing why their first video for Hungry For The Power was banned from YouTube, they rile up and snicker, “What’s wrong with the world where sex is banned and violence is accepted?”, though their bacchanal attitude seems to support on open format rather than restriction of either. Their response was the HFTP PT II video, a very PG, black and white desert affair filmed during their Club Rhonda appearance at Coachella this year. It cheekily showcases the boys in their natural, goofier personas, and is appearing now in rotation on MTV in the EU and UK. It’s been a long wait for some and will be an unexpected surprise to many, so thankfully their highly anticipated debut album will be hitting the streets this August 1. As well as collecting their biggest singles from the past couple years, the album also expands their identity further into a kaleidoscope of tripped-out textures, sometimes challenging but inevitably irresistible pop melodies.
A name that’s been gaining increasing attention from the who’s who of the underground electronic music community is London based DJ and producer jozif. The born and bred artist, who has worked his way to where he is today with his typical (to anyone that knows him) ‘jozif swagger’ – passionate, determined and wildly talent driven.
JDH + Dave P
Rumors of NYC nightlife’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. While the ever-pervasive rumors of “no dancing allowed” and draconian cabaret laws continue to reverberate around the world’s cities, the state of underground dance music in the big apple is indeed much stronger. This is thanks, in no small part, to the efforts of Dave Pianka and Josh Houtkin (DJing as Dave P and JDH, respectively). The two have been responsible for bringing over some of the most credible DJs and live bands and giving them a proper venue and environment in which to play. In addition, they have honed their DJ and production skills over the years, and are increasingly breaking new records and sounds with their back-to-back sets. Dave has also recently kicked into gear with production duties, contributing remixes of established acts like the Klaxons and Bloc Party.
The two first met through Josh’s affiliation with Flyer, a now-defunct cultural magazine. They were frequently booked separately to DJ at the same parties in NYC, often in the same rooms.
“We both came from very similar musical backgrounds growing up in the punk/hardcore scene,” says Dave. “We both basically progressed in the same direction from there, into indie rock and into the more electronic sounds where we find ourselves now.”
Says Josh, “Our influences come from a pretty wide variety of places. We both were heavily into the early-90's punk/ indie scene. Fugazi, Dischord Records, Bikini Kill, that sort of stuff.”
The two quickly teamed up, expanding their horizons into techno, electro and other permutations of dance music. In early 2004, they started a party called FIXED at the Tribeca Grand hotel, where they quickly established a forward-thinking booking policy that found heavyweight, Berlin-based techno jocks like Ewan Pearson playing one week, with on-the-rise indie acts such as Little Boots or Friendly Fires the next. To date, blue-chip artists like Erol Alkan, Soulwax, Booka Shade, Justice, Superpitcher, the Klaxons, Peaches, LCD Soundsystem, Mylo, Vitalic, Simian Mobile Disco, The Rapture, Tiefschwarz, M.A.N.D.Y., and many more have all made appearances. The party celebrated its 5-year anniversary in November 2009, with Basement Jaxx headlining the night.
In a city full of nights with style over substance, FIXED is now known as a party with an eclectic crowd of sincere music lovers, where all sorts of interesting styles and genres find a place to come together.
“Aside from our musical upbringing, we are both influenced by nights such as Optimo, Trash, and Bugged Out!, says Josh. “These are great parties that don't necessarily have a musical "policy" or "style." For us, every style of music is good and merits attention.”
In terms of their DJing, the two have forged a defined musical understanding over the years. They often play back-to-back, each pushing one and other to find the perfect record to follow another with. “There are times when Josh and I are djing and one of us will put on a record and we'll both reach for a track to play out of it and then realize that we both grabbed the same one,” says Dave. “We’re both very conscious of flow.”
Going forward, JDH and Dave P look forward to continuing helping interesting acts around the world establish a beachhead on US shores, as well as continuing to bring their act on the road. With recent DJ tours with Simian Mobile Disco and Soulwax, they’re finding wider acclaim on a global stage while keeping up the ravenous appetite for breaking new sounds.